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A seemingly odd question, but here it goes. Say that a potential client asks that a certain level of ecology and sustainability is to be respected before they will consider your company for a web site project. How would you go about meeting this requirement?

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closed as off topic by thorsten müller, Thomas Owens Mar 21 '12 at 11:31

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Tell them you write software that uses less electricity. All that greenwashing nonsense is just about PR. Just throw them a bone that they can feed to upper management and check the box. –  JohnFx Mar 20 '12 at 23:58
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It's a test of how much you are willing to bend over backwards to "earn" their project. I would definitely stay away from that company, if I could afford to do so. This is a very bad sign of more nonsense coming your way, and I assume that you have a much better use for your time. For example, you could use that time to build web sites for clients who care about your abilities to build outstanding web sites, not b.s.-ing your way through their nonsense requirements. –  dasblinkenlight Mar 21 '12 at 0:19
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This video explains how to do proper 'green' web design. youtube.com/watch?v=5832YV-zAbk –  jfrankcarr Mar 21 '12 at 0:38
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Make sure that all the electrons used during development are recycled. –  mouviciel Mar 21 '12 at 9:21
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Based on the current wording of this question, it's about business practices and policies, something outside the realm of professional software development. –  Thomas Owens Mar 21 '12 at 11:33
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3 Answers

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Aren't you, maybe, overthinking this concern a little?

Anyway: in the past I saw people advocating black, dark, and grey web designs, with the rationale that it consumes less energy. This could have had made a very little sense with CRT monitors, (though the save was pretty negligible and all) with LCD displays it is now complete nonsense. (backlight: always on)

Promoting the usage of less videos on the web, in general, might make sense. Adobe flash kinda hogs GPUs, (not to the point of warming the planet, but it certainly roasted my thigh) and server infrastructures for serving videos are pretty hefty and power consuming.

The only serious, meaningful discussion I ever saw on environmental consciousness / energy saving in web computing, to date, came from Facebook: the Open Compute Project, with whom they really tried to distance themselves from those loud-screaming turbines most vendors roll out and sell as rack servers.

Here's the video they used to introduce the OCP.

And some of the ideas they implemented (in Prineville, Oregon) and shared:

  • bigger centralized fans moving slower, conveying air efficiently.
  • bare bones and almost fanless servers (they cool the environment, and the cabinets, not the single servers) that are greener to produce (e.g. no paint)
  • a clever cooling system that uses water-cooled air flowing from the floor to the roof instead of conventional air conditioning.

They are also saying they chose Sweden for their next data center, deliberately because of the cold weather, and they intend to exploit it for cooling.

Anyway Dell, HP, Rackspace, Skype, and Zynga are now known to have joined the OCP. And yes many of them seem more part of the problem than of the solution, but at least now they are asking themselves some good questions. And yes, Greenpeace approves of all of this.

A really, really, really, environmentally conscious client, then, could choose to look for an OCP data center to host his apps on, but given the not-so-established state of the art, and the price increase such a choice would imply right now, I suppose most of those would just postpone their "getting green" to a future, unestablished, date.

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(PS: don't you think the fact that Open Compute Project abbreviates to OCP is creepily reminiscent of the Robocop franchise?) –  ZJR Mar 21 '12 at 2:38
    
Some great information there. Apart from videos and compression, I suppose changes in programming would be seen in the same light as the web designs you mention. –  James Poulson Mar 21 '12 at 9:01
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(As for OCP, I agree with you. Along similar lines, one of the local ISPs here is called Skynet :p ) –  James Poulson Mar 21 '12 at 9:02
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You probably want some equivalent of the Portland, OR based Sustainability at Work program to help you understand the parameters. You may have a more locally suitable program, but the general framework will be similar enough to answer your general question.

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+1. Client wants some statement about your general environmental policy (switching lights off when not needed, recycling ...) This is probably a requirement from their corporate policy: it is probably not a whim of the people you will be dealing with, so don't worry that they are oddballs. Just find some suitable policy you can adopt, preferably recommended by your own govt or some respected body from your own country or region. If the client has an environmental policy, adapt that. Mostly these things save you money anyway, and it sounds good to have an environmental policy –  MarkJ Mar 21 '12 at 9:59
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I work for a helicopter company we do lots of work for major utility companies in the UK. They require us to have an envionmental protection system very similar to a health and safety system.

ISO 14000 may be rather overblown for your company, but it may well point you in the right direction http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_14000_essentials

From my experience, they are looking for companies that take a systematic aproach to environmental protection rather than specific requirements.

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